PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
SAMSUNG GALAXY S8 PLUS REVIEW
New Galaxy devices have finally arrived from Samsung and there’s a slightly different strategy for the 2017 flagship phones. Now in simply different sizes rather than offering varying tech, here we go in-depth for our Galaxy S8 Plus review to see if you should buy the larger handset.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
The S8 Plus is now available in the UK.
It’s not a shock that the Galaxy S8 Plus is an expensive smartphone, although not as much as some feared. The flagship price is £779 which isn’t a huge amount more than the regular Galaxy S8 which is £689.
You can buy the S8 Plus from Carphone Warehouse or directly from Samsung. You can also get it on contract from as little as £34 per month from EE, Vodafone and O2 (through Carphone Warehouse) or from Three.
Unlocked mobiles claims to have the lowest UK SIM-free prices – £599.89 for the Galaxy S8 and £699.89 for the Plus. That certainly seems to be the case.
For more detailed info, you should read our full guide on the best Galaxy S8 Plus deals.
DESIGN AND BUILD
This year there’s not a huge difference between Samsung’s two flagship phones. As they both offer the edge screen display, the handsets are simply different sizes when it comes to design – hence the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus naming system with no ‘edge’ element.
The Plus model isn’t a vastly bigger than the regular Galaxy S8. It’s around 10mm taller and 5mm wider which isn’t much to jump from a 5.8- to 6.2in screen. It’s astonishing how normal these phones feel in the hand considering those figures.
Bear in mind that the Galaxy S8 Plus is heavier at 173g compared to 155g, even though that’s an impressive weight for a phone with a 6.2in screen. The 6.4in Xperia Z Ultra is 212g.
You’ll notice that a big difference in this year’s Galaxy phone is the impressive screen-to-bezel ratio and the rounded corners of the display which match the metal frame. To make this happen, Samsung has ditched the traditional section below the screen for home button.
The fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back and there’s also a pressure sensitive home button built into the display.
Although moving the fingerprint scanner enables that awesome display, it makes it incredible tricky to use. It’s hard enough on the regular S8 and the S8 Plus really does require a shimmy in order to reach it.
You’ll probably end up smudging the camera lens with your finger, especially if you’re right handed, and put a case on the phone and the fingerprint scanner gets even harder to use – albeit slightly easier to find without looking.
Putting a case on the S8 Plus is almost a necessity due to how slippery the design is. Although the glossy finish feels nice it makes pulling the phone out of a pocket a nerve-wracking experience. It’s a real shame because adding a case means you lose a lot of the premium feel and they tend to get in the way of using the edge screen.
You get all the same design features as the smaller model including a headphone jack, Gorilla Glass 5 rear cover and IP68 rated waterproofing. A new button sits on the left for launching Bixby – more on this in the software section.
In the UK, Samsung is offering the Galaxy S8 Plus in three colours: Midnight Black, Orchid Grey and Arctic Silver. The blue and gold options will launch in other markets such as China but may well come to Blighty at a later date.
We like all the colours but be warned that the Arctic Silver option is very shiny, almost mirrored like the Sony Xperia XZ Premium. Samsung has said this colour will be available ‘in due course’ so the black and grey options will be the choices to start with.
SPECIFICATIONS AND HARDWARE
Samsung likes packing as much tech into its phones as humanly possible and the Galaxy S8 Plus ticks almost every box you could think of for a flagship phone.
As you’ve gathered already, the screen size is the big difference between the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus. Both phones now have Samsung’s edge screen technology so there’s no longer the need to buy the larger option to get this.
Samsung has tweaked the edge display though, so it’s not as exaggerated this time. You still get the edge panels but you can’t use the edge to show the clock at night and show other information like previously.
Your decision then, is whether to go for the smaller 5.8in model or the Galaxy S8 Plus’ 6.2in. These sizes sound a bit ridiculous but the S8 Plus isn’t actually too much bigger.
That said, it’s enough to make it a two-handed phone and stretching for things that traditionally appear towards the top like search boxes and other buttons can get quite annoying.
It’s best to try both in the hand before you commit but we feel the regular Galaxy S8 will be enough for most consumers.
In terms of specs the Galaxy S8 Plus uses the same Super AMOLED technology as the smaller model and has the same Quad HD (2960×1440) resolution. This means a lower but insignificant drop in pixel density from 570- to 529ppi.
It’s worth noting that the screen runs at FHD+ (2220×1080) by default but it still looks great like this and you probably won’t feel the need to jump to Quad HD but you can do in the settings if you wish – or even drop it to 720p.
Similar to the LG G6, the Galaxy S8 Plus has an unusual aspect ratio. Instead of the typical 16:9, it’s 18.5:9 so the screen is very tall. This makes things like watching video much better as you don’t get annoying black bars if you format to the screen.
When things like video go full screen is when you’ll need the pressure sensitive home button.
Like the regular model, the Galaxy S8 Plus will come with two different processors for different markets.
The UK model will come with Samsung’s Exynos Series 9 8895 chip, an octa-core processor with 4x 2.3GHz and 4x 1.7GHz clock speeds. Some other markets will get the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 that Samsung co-produced.
It’s no surprise that the S8 Plus benchmarks almost identically to the smaller one considering it has the same core specs. The slightly larger screen size doesn’t make any difference to graphics results and note that we tested at the default FHD+ resolution (2220×1080).
Memory and Storage
Samsung has kept things simple this year so the Galaxy S8 Plus matches the smaller model with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. As usual, there’s expandable storage so it’s easy to add a further 256GB with the Micro-SD card slot.
Samsung has detailed a 128GB option that comes with 6GB of RAM which we’re sure some of you would be interested in. However, this is for the Asian market only and there’s no work on whether it will be released anywhere else.
Want top-notch connectivity? Well how does dual-band 11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth 5.0 and LTE Cat 16 sound for starters? Furthermore, the Galaxy S8 Plus comes with a reversible USB-C port and the usual heart rate monitor.
It’s all the same as the Galaxy S8.
Fingerprint and Iris scanners
As you can see, Samsung has had to move the fingerprint scanner to the back of the phone in order to have such a large screen with small bezels.
This isn’t something new, but most rivals place the scanner below the camera. Instead, Samsung has put it to the side and as we detailed in the design section it’s a bit of a nightmare, especially on the larger S8 Plus.
However, Samsung thinks users won’t use it as much this time because the Iris scanner introduced on the Note 7 has been improved so you can just look at the phone to unlock it.
This would be useful because of the fingerprint scanner placement, but it’s temperamental requiring the phone to be in in good light, a certain distance from your eyes and held up which most people won’t want to do regularly – especially in public.
Of all the features, biometric security is the biggest let down on the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus.
Phone photography is important to almost every user and Samsung has upgraded the front camera to 8Mp (from 5Mp) for selfie fans. It still has an f/1.7 aperture and it’s one of the best around for those partaking in regular self-portraits or video calls.
The Galaxy S7 range has an awesome camera and Samsung hasn’t felt the need to make any huge changes for the S8 and S8 Plus. It’s a 12Mp Dual Pixel camera with an f/1.7 aperture, optical image stabilisation (OIS), 4k video recording and an LED flash.
A hidden upgrade is a new image processor which enables the phone to quickly take three photos when in tricky conditions, combining them to create a better result. It’s called ‘multi-frame image processing’.
Overall the camera app is smooth and responsive, and as you would expect offers plenty of different modes and filters to play around with. There’s a new food mode for showing off what you’ve ordered out or managed to make yourself.
As we thought, the camera on the Galaxy S8 Plus is one of the best on a phone. It’s a great all-rounder that’s capable of taking some stunning photos and not just in good lighting conditions.
With such a large screen, Samsung has tweaked the camera app to make it easier to use with one hand. You can do things like zoom, switch between cameras and modes easily.
Apart from the bigger screen, there’s another reason to opt for the Galaxy S8 Plus over the smaller model.
It still has USB-C, fast charging and wireless charging but since the device is bigger there’s more room for a battery. While the Galaxy S8 has a 3,000mAh battery, the S8 Plus is sixth larger at 3500mAh.
That’s good but we slightly expected more considering the jump in size. Those capacities are the same as the Galaxy S7 phones.
During our time with the S8 Plus we’ve found it comfortably lasting a 24 hour period of usage but it’s unlikely to get through a second day unless you’re a particularly light user.
Phone software isn’t particularly exciting these days, especially considering the hardware on offer. However, Samsung has a few interesting bits and pieces going on when it comes to the Galay S8 Plus.
Android 7.0 Nougat
It’s no surprise that the Galaxy S8 Plus runs on the lasted version of Android, 7.0 Nougat, and Samsung kept things mostly simple and intuitive.
There are a large number of pre-installed apps but not the kind of ones most will want to delete including the Google ones you’re used to on Android, Microsoft apps and Samsung’s own.
One of the big Nougat tweaks you’ll have to get used to is swiping upwards to access app draw, rather than tapping an icon.
A new feature to help you deal with, and make use of, the larger screen is Snap Window which is a new element to Multi Window. Using a new icon when viewing recent apps, you can select a portion of an app to pin at the top of the display while you carry on using the remainder like normal.
The biggest new software feature by far is Bixby which might sound like a butler’s name and it sort of is. Bixby is a new digital assistant along the lines of Siri and Google Assistant you can instantly access with the dedicated button on the side. We answer ‘What is Bixby?’.
Samsung says it’s the kind of deal where you don’t need to know what phrases you can and can’t say and the software will know the context of what you’re doing in order to help better. It can also do cool things with the camera like recognise and provide information for landmarks and products.
We’re a bit underwhelmed by Bixby, since much of its functionality has already been available via rivals for some time, including the Google Assistant that is also present on the Galaxy S8 Plus. The UK version of Bixby Voice was not available at launch, though it is coming on 22 August 2017.
Along with the latest Gear VR headset and the Gear 360 2 camera is an interesting docking station for the Galaxy S8 called DeX. Read more about the Samsung DeX dock.
In a similar way to Windows Continuum, the dock allows you to use a desktop-style interface on a monitor with a keyboard and mouse just by plugging the phone in. You can use apps in different windows and Samsung’s browser will automatically request desktop versions of websites so you get the full experience.
The dock itself features USB-C to connect the phone and then offers two USB ports, Ethernet, HDMI and a cooling fan. You can also use a wireless keyboard and mouse if you like.
An update that adds Daydream support to the Galaxy S8+ has also rolled out after launch.
Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus: Specs
- Android 7.0 Nougat
- 6.2in Quad HD display (2960×1440), 529ppi
- Dual curved edge display
- Exynos 8895 octa-core processor
- 4GB RAM
- 64GB internal storage
- Micro-SD card slot (up to 256GB)
- 12Mp rear-facing camera with OIS
- 8Mp front camera
- Pressure sensitive home button
- Fingerprint scanner
- Heart rate monitor
- 11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
- Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX
- 4G LTE Cat 16
- Headphone jack
- 3500mAh non-removable battery
- Wireless charging
- IP68 dust & waterproof rating
SHOULD I BUY SAMSUNG GALAXY S8 PLUS?
We’re really impressed by the Galaxy S8 Plus, just as we are with the regular S8. Samsung has done a great job of making last year’s phones even better.
Both offer the infinity edge screen and most people will be better off saving money and going for the S8 unless you specifically want the Plus’s larger display and better battery life. Otherwise it’s hard to find any other reason to buy it over the smaller phone.